Kavanaugh Hearing: National Sexual Assault Hotline Saw 147 Percent Surge in Calls

As Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, recalling the memory of the sexual assault she alleged she suffered at the hands of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 1982, the National Sexual Assault Hotline saw a surge in calls. 

Millions of Americans were listening and watching as Ford described the intimate details of the alleged attack: How she was pushed into a bedroom with Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, and how Kavanaugh forced himself on top of her, trying to remove her clothes as both teenage boys laughed at her expense.

"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense," Ford told the assembled senators and the rest of America, and the world.

As Ford delivered her testimony, the National Sexual Assault Hotline saw a 147 percent increase in calls compared with a typical weekday, according to anti-sexual violence organization RAINN, which runs the hotline.

The organization had to notify users that it was experiencing "unprecedented wait times" for its online chat system on Thursday night as well, with the organization encouraging those seeking assistance to call its hotline, 800.656.HOPE instead. 

"Hearing about sexual violence in the media and online can be very difficult for survivors and their loved ones," RAINN said in a Twitter statement. "Remember to take care of yourself during these times."

It also shared a number of resources, including articles on how to practice self-care when sexual violence is present in the news, how to practice physical and emotional self-care after trauma, as well as on managing flashbacks and self-care for loved ones of survivors. 

Raliance, an organization dedicated to ending sexual violence, commended Ford for her "courage in coming forward with her story," in a statement sent to Newsweek. 

"In spite of the harassment and threats she and her family have received, she demonstrated incredible bravery…in choosing to share her experience with the millions of people watching across this country and around the world," the organization said. 

It noted that the past week has been "very painful for survivors," with Ford having to face a slew of difficult questions from senators, including many who have cast doubt on her credibility, on live television in Thursday's hearing. 

"Every time we question, ridicule and demean a survivor that comes forward, we hurt those who are living with the trauma of sexual abuse and discourage even more people from coming forward," Raliance said in its statement. 

The organization also addressed issues surrounding Ford's waiting decades to publicly make her allegations against Kavanaugh, saying: “There are those who think that reporting years or even decades after a sexual assault is too late, or that a delayed report is unfair because it ruins an offender’s life.

"When we value the lives of victims, often women, as much as we value the lives of men, this will no longer be a serious consideration," Raliance said. 

"The courage required to make oneself whole after suffering abuse should be respected, never shamed into silence because an abuser would rather forget than be held accountable," the organization said. 

Read more: Kavanaugh, Ford Hearing Was a 'Mockery,' Not a Quest for Truth, Legal Experts Say 

“We want all senators and the nation to understand that this is much bigger than a single Supreme Court nominee," it added.

"This is about the 15-year-old girl who finds herself hiding in the bathroom, terrified. She is thinking 'Is this how I will be treated if I come forward?' And the 17-year-old boy who finds himself emboldened to take without consent? He too is watching, and learning. What are we teaching them both?”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination on Friday morning.

If approved by the committee, the nomination will then have to win confirmation from the full Senate, which Republicans narrowly control, with 51 seats to the Democrats' 49.

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